SOA and BPM as defined by Mr. Potato Head

Craig Reid

Having had no previous knowledge or involvement with SOA I was pretty keen to understand it. Not being a textbook kind of guy I am always looking for a metaphor, analogy or image to help myself to understand things and bizarrely enough when I learned about SOA and BPM my analogy was clear:

Mr Potato Head.

Why? Well SOA is all about providing flexibility. It’s all about having a modular structure of architecture that is "as flexible as the business needs it to be". It is in contrast to the "old" IT ways of building rigid systems that are slow and costly to change.

If we think about Mr. Potato head as our offering to the customer, the business decides what Mr. Potato head looks like (services).

Now imagine that each one of Mr. Potato head’s bits (ears, eyes, hats, etc.) is a business process. These processes make up the offering or service to the customer. So the business decides what he looks like and IT plug together his individual processes out of their big box of ears, eyes, mouths, etc.

If the business decide that the want to change their offering to the customer and hence the processes involved they simply tell IT what they want and IT go back to their big box of Mr Potato head parts and pick out a new process (ear, eye, etc!). Mr potato head now looks different as they have changed the process and the customer receives a new service or offering from the company.

If we look at how this would have worked in the old days the business would have come to IT with their request and IT would have told them that all Mr. Potato head’s parts were glued together and that to change their processes they’d have to e.g. cut off an arm, build a new one and glue it on. This would take time, money and a lot of effort.

But with our new SOA oriented business Mr. Potato head can take on the world!

We simply plug in our new processes to provide the business with what they need. Thus the business can respond rapidly. The Business and IT are in complete alignment.


First published on Reprinted with permission.